Asynchrony among local communities stabilises ecosystem function of metacommunities

Kevin R. Wilcox, Andrew T. Tredennick, Sally E. Koerner, Emily Grman, Lauren M. Hallett, Meghan L. Avolio, Kimberly J. La Pierre, Gregory R. Houseman, Forest Isbell, David Samuel Johnson, Juha M. Alatalo, Andrew H. Baldwin, Edward W. Bork, Elizabeth H. Boughton, William D. Bowman, Andrea J. Britton, James F. Cahill, Scott L. Collins, Guozhen Du, Anu EskelinenLaura Gough, Anke Jentsch, Christel Kern, Kari Klanderud, Alan K. Knapp, Juergen Kreyling, Yiqi Luo, Jennie R. McLaren, Patrick Megonigal, Vladimir Onipchenko, Janet Prevéy, Jodi N. Price, Clare H. Robinson, Osvaldo E. Sala, Melinda D. Smith, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Lara Souza, David Tilman, Shannon R. White, Zhuwen Xu, Laura Yahdjian, Qiang Yu, Pengfei Zhang, Yunhai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Temporal stability of ecosystem functioning increases the predictability and reliability of ecosystem services, and understanding the drivers of stability across spatial scales is important for land management and policy decisions. We used species-level abundance data from 62 plant communities across five continents to assess mechanisms of temporal stability across spatial scales. We assessed how asynchrony (i.e. different units responding dissimilarly through time) of species and local communities stabilised metacommunity ecosystem function. Asynchrony of species increased stability of local communities, and asynchrony among local communities enhanced metacommunity stability by a wide range of magnitudes (1–315%); this range was positively correlated with the size of the metacommunity. Additionally, asynchronous responses among local communities were linked with species’ populations fluctuating asynchronously across space, perhaps stemming from physical and/or competitive differences among local communities. Accordingly, we suggest spatial heterogeneity should be a major focus for maintaining the stability of ecosystem services at larger spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1534-1545
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Long Term Ecological Research Network Communications Office for funding the initial working group responsible for compiling the CORRE database, and the various funding agencies and data collection/processing personnel that made individual studies possible, including but not limited to: Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) (NSF DEB-1235828), ARC LTER RSF (#16-14-10208), Cedar Creek LTER, Konza Prairie LTER, the Macarthur Agro-Ecological Research Center, Niwot LTER, Plum Island Estuary, Sevilleta LTER. Data from the Smithso-nian Global Change Research Wetland as supported by the DOE-TES program (award DE-SC0008339), the NSF-LTREB program (awards DEB-0950080 and DEB-1457100), and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. VO thanks RSF (#16-14-10208) for financial support; CHR thanks the Global Atmospheric Nitrogen Environment (GANE) thematic programme of the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (GST022701); ATT was supported by an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology (DBI-1400370); and KRW was supported by the Experimental Drought in Grasslands Experiment (EF-1137293).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by CNRS and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Alpha diversity
  • alpha variability
  • beta diversity
  • biodiversity
  • CoRRE data base
  • patchiness
  • plant communities
  • primary productivity
  • species synchrony

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter


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